Jun 01 2007

Tarte au Pomme

I love making these traditional French apple tarts. There’s a comforting symmetry in the arrangement of the apples slices and a sticky deliciousness to the shiny glaze.

First I make the Pate Sucre. I used to make it by hand on a marble slab gradually drawing all the ingredients together but now we have food processors!

I whizz 200g plain flour, 100g soft butter, 75g caster sugar and three egg yolks in the processor, wrap the paste in cling film and chill for at least an hour before I use it. Even well chilled it is hard to roll, out so I find it easier to dip my knuckles in icing sugar and press it carefully into a loose bottomed flan ring. I chill it again.

I often make a double quantity of pastry, line two fluted flan tins, freeze one and bake one blind. While it cools I make the crème patisserie with 50 grams of butter, icing sugar and, ground almonds and an egg. I spread it over the base of the cool flan case sprinkling it with a teaspoonful of dry semolina.

Next, working fast, I cut red desert apples into thin slices and arranged them in circles on top of the crème patisserie. Every few minutes I squeeze lemon juice on the slices to stop them browning. Then another sprinkling, this time of caster sugar, and back into a hot oven just long enough to soften the apple. Finally I warm some home made redcurrant jelly and carefully “paint” the flan to give a dark red, sticky glaze. I serve the flans warm with double cream or Devonshire clotted cream.

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Jun 01 2007

Simnel Cake

Simnel Cake was originally baked for Mothering Sunday but has now become associated with Easter.

Grease and line a 7 inch cake tin. Preheat the oven to 325F, gas 3 or 165c.

Cream together ½ lb/230gms of unsalted butter with the grated rind of two lemons and ½ lb/230gms of caster sugar, until light and fluffy.

Add four eggs slowly, beating as you go.

Now stir in 6 oz/200gms of mixed candied peel, 6oz/200gms sultanas, 1¼ lb/500gms currants. Sift 14 oz/400gms plain flour with a pinch of salt and a small teaspoon of baking powder and the same of mixed spice. Gently fold in. If it seems very stiff loosen with a dash of milk.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and cook for about 3 hours. Test with a skewer and cook a little longer if it comes out of the cake sticky.

Turn onto a wrack to cool and make the Almond topping.

Mix together 4oz/120gms ground almonds with4oz/120gms icing sugar. Add half a lightly beaten egg and a few drops of lemon juice. Knead the paste till smooth. Then, using two thirds of the paste, roll out a 7 inch circle to fit the top of the cake. Form little balls with the remaining paste to represent the 11 Apostles, excluding Judas, and place them on the cake with crystallised flowers or pre Christian Easter Eggs to celebrate Spring.


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Jun 01 2007

Roasted Apple Ice Cream

2 Bramley apples
25g unsalted butter
35g unrefined or raw sugar
300ml double cream
2tsp vanilla essence
4 lg egg yolks
60g unrefined or raw sugar
4tbsp crème fraiche

Peel, core and cut apples into 1cm cubes. Melt butter in oven proof, non-stick pan. Add sugar; let it begin to caramelise. Add apples, cook at high heat for a few minutes then put into oven to “roast” (180 c) for 10-15 mins,( nicely sticky and brown). Cool and be careful not to break up as you turn.

**Place milk, cream & vanilla essence into heavy bottomed pan, bring to boil. Combine egg yolks & sugar, pour onto milk mixture, mix well. Rinse pan in cold water, return mixture to pan & thicken stiring all the time, over low heat. It must NOT boil!. Cool. Whisk in crème fraiche.

Transfer to Ice Cream Maker and churn, or pour chilled custard into plastic box, place in freezer and, after one hour, take out & whisk with hand whisk. Repeat 4 times at 30 minute intervals adding apples after final whisking……….

Or, do this……………….
**Cook the APPLES as above

Then make the CUSTARD… just cream with a vanilla pod infused in it; most vanilla essence is disgusting!
(You can wash the pod afterwards and put it back in the caster sugar jar!).

Add two tea spoons of cornflour to the egg yolks and sugar to stabilise the mixture, less chance of scrambled egg i.e. easier and safer!

Then…….. make a MERINGUE CUITE

4 egg whites
9 oz icing sugar

Whisk together over a pan of hot water. It will be stiffer and better tempered than ordinary meringue!


Whip 1/2 pint double cream until it’s the same consistency as the meringue

Combine custard, meringue, cream and apples gently with a metal spoon.
Put the whole lot in the freezer and take out one hour before eating.
None of that whisking or rushing out to buy an ice cream churn………
You can give it one whisk if you like to make sure there are no ice crystals about but it will reduce the volume.
Any flavour will work but remember water means ice crystals so it’s safer to stick to thick fruit purees, praline, pure melted chocolate etc…

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Jun 01 2007

Polenta Almond and Lemon Cake

The strawberries in the garden are in flower but no fruit yet so I must cheat and buy a small punit to go with the Polenta Almond and Lemon Cake I am making for a friends’ birthday in a couple of days. The crunchiness of the cake goes so well with the delicious luxuriousness of strawberries and cream.

First prepare the cake tin by lining with baking parchment. Preheat the oven.

For the cake take 25gms unsalted butter and 225 gms * vanilla flavoured caster sugar and beat hard with a wooden spoon till pale and light, or whiz in the food processor. Stir in 225gms ground almonds. Now beat in 3 eggs one at a time. Fold in the zest of 2 lemons and juice of 1 lemon, 80gms of polenta and 75gm of plain flour, 1 tsp of baking powder and a good pinch of salt. If the mixture seems very runny add a little more flour and polenta. It depends on the size of your eggs. It should be the consistency of stiff batter.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake at 160C/325F/ gas 3for 45-50 minutes. My range has a hot oven which is too hot and a cool oven that is too cool so I bake in the bottom oven slowly till the cake is set! Test with a skewer. If it comes out of the cake clean, the cake is cooked. Turn the cake out onto a wire tray to cool.

Place the cake on a large dish, surround with strawberries drizzled with thick cream, and sprinkle with icing sugar.

* Vanilla sugar: Keep caster sugar and a vanilla pod in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid and the sugar will absorb the glorious flavour of the pod.

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